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Chongqing: Profile of a Consumer Market

1.  Economic Overview and Development Planning

Dubbed as a mega city, Chongqing is currently the largest Chinese city in terms of administrative jurisdiction, population and the number of administration units. In 1997, it became the fourth municipality directly under the Central Government in China and the only one in the western region. As one of China’s old industrial bases, Chongqing has seven pillar industries, namely the electronic manufacturing industry, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, energy, equipment, cars and motorcycles, consumer goods, and building materials. It also plans to develop 10 emerging industries, including Internet-of-Things, robotics and intelligent equipment, shale gas, and environmental protection. Its industries are mainly heavy industries. In 2014, heavy industries above a designated scale contributed to about 74% of the city’s total industrial output.

Chongqing’s GDP reached Rmb1,426.5 billion in 2014, a year-on-year growth of 10.9%. Calculated in terms of permanent population, its per capita GDP was Rmb47,859 in 2014, up 10.1%.

Chart: Chongqing’s GDP in recent years
Chart: Chongqing’s GDP in recent years

In 2014, Chongqing received 349 million visitors from all over the world and generated tourist revenues amounting to Rmb200.3 billion, up 13.2% and 13.1% respectively year-on-year. Among these, 346 million were domestic visitors and 2.638 million were international visitors.

In 2007, the Central Government required that Chongqing target its development in three directions. That is, it must speed up building itself into an important growth pole in China’s west, an economic hub for Yangtze’s upstream areas and a municipality with coordinated urban and rural development. Against this background, Chongqing Urban-Rural Master Planning (2007-2020) was formulated to step up the development of the One-hour Economic Circle around the metropolitan area and provide guidance in the coordinated development of Chongqing’s northeast and southeast.

Although Chongqing is one of China’s four municipalities, its structure is significantly different from that of the other three. In spite of its municipality status, the majority of Chongqing’s area is rural. In 2013, urban population only accounted for 58% of the city’s total population, whereas it was 90% in Shanghai, 86% in Beijing and 82% in Tianjin. The Urban Developed Economic Circle[1] within the city boundary can in fact be regarded as the urban centre of Chongqing, whereas the areas within one hour’s driving distance from this circle form the One-hour Economic Circle. The GDP of the One-hour Economic Circle in 2014 made up 77.2% of the municipality’s total.

In 2013, on the basis of the regional development strategy of "one circle and two wings", Chongqing divided the municipality into five functional areas, including the core metropolitan function area, the extended metropolitan function area, the urban development new area, the northeastern Chongqing ecological conservation development area, and the southeastern ecological protection development area. These five functional areas each has its own distinctive development strategy:

(1)  Core metropolitan function area: Improve the urban function, optimise the industrial structure, and develop finance, commerce, culture, creative industry and other modern services.

(2)  Extended metropolitan function area: Cultivate and upgrade its function as a national central city, such as open access, a scientific and educational centre, a comprehensive hub, commercial logistics, and advanced manufacturing.

(3)  Urban development new area: Develop the industrial economy and accelerate the development of new-style urbanisation.

(4)  Northeastern Chongqing ecological conservation development area: Develop the farm produce economy and cultivate and strengthen industries with local characteristics and advantages.

(5)  Southeastern Chongqing ecological protection development area: Develop clean energy, light and textile products, foodstuff, biomedicine, commercial logistics, ecological tourism and other industries and give due attention to economic development and environmental protection.

2.  Chongqing’s Consumer Market

2.1  Growth in Retail Sales

In 2014, Chongqing’s retail sales of consumer goods increased 10.8% from the previous year to Rmb509.6 billion. In the wholesale and retail turnover of enterprises above a designated scale, communications equipment grew 37.5%; cars grew 24.9%, cultural goods and office appliances grew 20.0%, furniture grew 18.8%, building and decoration materials grew 24.7%, Chinese and western drugs grew 16.9%, petrol and related products grew 16.8%, oil and foodstuffs grew 16.6%, home appliances and audio-visual products grew 14.4%, and clothing, footwear and headgear grew 8.4%.

Retail sales of Chongqing’s consumer market have maintained rapid growth in recent years. From 2009 to 2014, the average annual growth was 16%, indicating sustained growth in Chongqing’s overall spending power and local sales of goods.

Chart: Retail sales of consumer goods
Chart: Retail sales of consumer goods

2.2  Per Capita Disposable Income and Consumption Expenditure

In 2014, per capita disposable income of urban households in Chongqing reached Rmb25,147 and per capita consumption expenditure was Rmb18,279. According to 2013 figures, the average per capita disposable income of high-income households reached Rmb47,561 and the per capita consumption expenditure of these households stood at an average of Rmb30,078.

Chart: Per capita disposable income and consumption expenditure of urban households in Chongqing
Chart: Per capita disposable income and consumption expenditure of urban households in Chongqing

3.  Characteristics of Chongqing’s Consumer Market

3.1  Population Structure

Chongqing had a permanent population of 29.9 million in 2014, representing an increase of 6.9% over the 2005 figure of 27.98 million.

According to China’s sixth population census, about 51% of Chongqing's permanent population were male, with 17% aged 0-14, 71.5% aged 15-64, and 11.5% aged 65 and above.

Of Chongqing’s permanent population, 8.6% have reached university level, 13.2% have received senior high school education, 33% have received junior high school education, while 33.8% have reached primary school level. Compared with the fifth population census, which took place 10 years earlier, the number of people in Chongqing reaching university level has risen from 2,802 to 8,643 per 100,000 people. There were 9.75 million households in Chongqing, with an average size of 2.77 persons. The average household size had decreased by 0.44 person from 10 years earlier.

The urban population only accounted for 58% of Chongqing’s total population in 2013, but the urbanisation rate reached 99.8% and 77.9% respectively in the core metropolitan function area and the extended metropolitan function area that make up the Urban Developed Economic Circle.

Table:Population&retail sales of consumer goods in Chongqing’s Urban Developed EconomicCircle in2013
Table:Population&retail sales of consumer goods in Chongqing’s Urban Developed EconomicCircle in2013
Picture: Administration districts of Chongqing
Picture: Administration districts of Chongqing

3.2  Characteristics of Consumers

Chongqing people are frank and forthright in temperament and mainly go for things with a local flavour in their consumer preferences. Restaurants serving local cuisine, in particular, are real crowd pullers and money makers. They are also willing to dig deep into their pockets for high-priced consumer goods like cars and property. Although getting a new car or a new flat is very costly these days, sales promotion activities, such as expos, large-scale trade shows and other events organised by associations, remain effective means of boosting big spending on these items.

Chongqing people are becoming more and more mature in consumption and are demanding a richer variety and more attentive service. They are also willing to pay more. For luxury goods, demand for high-end products is on the rise. Shopping abroad and at cross-border e-commerce experience centres has seen rapid growth, while spending on such items has dropped at shopping malls. Luxury goods are mostly bought for oneself or as gifts for others and are usually bought at the end of the year or during major festivals. Sales gradually slow down when life returns to normal.

Holidays are important for the food and beverage industry. Significant growth in turnover is usually witnessed in February and May because the Spring Festival and Labour Day fall within these two months.

Traditional department stores saw rapid expansion before 2004. Shopping malls began to mushroom after 2005. Chongqing's commerce has entered a development period for urban complexes from 2011 until now. About 5 million sqm of these complexes have been opened for business and projects with a total area of at least 7.24 million sqm are expected to be launched over the next three years.

In future, Chongqing will make the best of its tourism resources and its industrial, historical and cultural advantages to build a number of renowned commercial streets (food streets and night markets). It will tap the historical and cultural essence of existing commercial streets, protect commercial architecture with traditional appearance and highlight the uniqueness and difference of these streets. Local patrons, visitors on short stay from eastern and southern Sichuan, Guizhou, western Hubei and northwestern Hunan, as well as business travellers make up Chongqing's main customer base.

4.  Profiles of Chongqing’s Major Commercial Districts

As the major urban areas of Chongqing are extensive and spread out, each has its own commercial district. Major commercial districts include:


The Jiefangbei pedestrian street has an average traffic flow of 300,000 persons on a normal day and over 1 million on major holidays. As many as 150,000 people flood to Jiefangbei to hear the bell toll on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve each year. Today, many people still regard going to Jiefangbei as "going to the city" and still think that "you have not really visited Chongqing if you have not been to Jiefangbei". Many businesses regard moving into Jiefangbei as a symbol of prestige and power.

The Jiefangbei central business district has gradually established its position as the core of Chongqing's financial sector, in line with the pressing needs of its commercial and financial development. The long-awaited Jiefangbei financial street project will soon commence. There are 88 financial institutions at or above the municipal level in Yuzhong district, accounting for over 90% of the total number in the municipality. This makes it the district with the largest number of financial institutions offering the fullest range of financial products in Chongqing and even western China.

Jiefangbei is home to 120 “Fortune 500” companies and over 200 famous international brands. It is a place that top international brands would scramble to get into. LV, Gucci, Prada, Burberry, Omega and other luxury brands all have stores here. Chongqing Times Square, Golden Eagle Shopping Mall and Metropolitan Oriental Plaza all target high-end customers. The presence of traditional department stores, like New Century Department Store, Far Eastern Department Store and Chongqing Department Store, also makes Jiefangbei the business district with the largest number of department stores.


In 2013, total sales in Guanyinqiao broke the Rmb200 billion mark to reach Rmb210.6 billion. The business district had a daily traffic flow of 460,000 persons in 2014. Jiangbei district proposed to position itself as a cluster of high-end industries, an example of core metropolitan area and a demonstration area of cultural trends. Guanyinqiao will carry out five upgrade projects to optimise its business types, extend its functions, improve traffic conditions, beautify the landscape, and build an intelligent business district. The total floor space of commercial establishments will increase from 1.78 million sqm to 3.6 million sqm and total retail sales is projected to increase from Rmb30 billion to Rmb60 billion after the upgrade.

An online market survey found that 53% of respondents have the habit of shopping in Guanyinqiao because it offers good shopping experience and is easily accessible. Guanyinqiao has adopted a strategy of catering to different needs in recent years. With more specialty restaurants, recreational venues, businesses targeting children's needs, and shops selling trendy and creative products, consumption in this business district has turned from simple shopping to a totally new experience of lifestyle and art. Statistics show that nearly 400 new brands, including international names like Vivienne Westwood, have been brought into this district since 2014. The opening of the first Apple flagship store in southwestern China, the first Fang Suo Commune bookstore in Chongqing, the first Starbucks Reserve in Chongqing, and China's biggest Samsung direct sales store that carries the widest range of Samsung products, have put Guanyinqiao in the lead of Chongqing's commercial development, in spite of keen competition. The New Century Shopping Center opened for business in 2014 as a mall offering a new shopping experience, with its trendy fashion, chic bookstores, leisure and recreational venues and global exhibitions. Stage shopping mall houses many international designer brands that entered the Chongqing market for the first time offers consumers the pleasure of casual luxury shopping with character.

Picture: Chongqing’s Major Commercial Districts
Picture: Chongqing’s Major Commercial Districts


As an old cultural district, Shapingba has developed into an important channel for the flow of people, goods and information. The Shapingba business district, with the Sanxia (Three Gorges) Square at the core, was already hailed as the "second business district" after Jiefangbei more than a decade ago, long before the Guanyinqiao and Nanping business districts had even begun to take shape. It is Chongqing's second oldest business district after Jiefangbei and used to be the second largest business district after Jiefangbei. It also has distinctive traits of an educational economic circle because it is home to Chongqing Normal University and Chongqing University.

Shapingba is also an important commercial centre in Chongqing, with 200,000 sqm of well-developed retail space that includes the Chongqing Department Store, New Century Department Store, Liyang Department Store, Wangfujing Department Store and Gome. With the Sanxia Square and another one named “green arts garden square” forming the mainstay, it boasts a business area of over 450,000 sqm together with the Nankai Pedestrian Street.


Nanping is unique in its geographical location as it is the only place in the city proper that is within a 10 minute drive from Jiangbei, Nan'an and Yuzhong. Total retail sales here already exceeded Rmb20 billion in the first half of 2014. Nanping's main pedestrian walk, formed by the City Plaza, Bailian Shanghai City, Wanda Plaza and Starlight Place, will develop into the metropolitan centre in the next few years, covering an area of 2.5 million sqm. The Nanping business district, which houses Le Meridien Hotel and other five-star hotels, Tianfu Kela Plaza (天福克拉廣場), Chongqing Wanda Plaza, Starlight Place, Bailian Shanghai City and other large commercial complexes, has brought in top international brands like Hugo Boss, Armani, Zegna, Versace and Omega, as well as leading fashion brands like Zara, C&A and Uniqlo. It also boasts the first children's scenario experience base in southwestern China – Tiancai Menggongchang (“genius dream factory”) – as well as the most upmarket skating rink in the city.


In September 2014, MixC Mall opened for business in Yangjiaping after 30 months of construction. This is the largest of China Resources Land's seven MixC Malls in China. Phase I of the mall alone has a business area of 350,000 sqm. It boasts 310 independent brand stores and 3,300 parking spots, both record highs for commercial establishments. The opening of this shopping mall has placed Yangjiaping, one of Chongqing's five major commercial districts, into the fast lane of expansion and upgrade.

Projects such as the City Crossing, Jiulong Binjiang commercial plaza, Xiejiawan redevelopment, and Tiema Xinhua village commercial development are rapidly underway. Their completion will provide strong support to the development of western Chongqing into a place of trendy consumption. Total retail sales in the Yangjiaping commercial district are projected to top Rmb35 billion by 2016 and Rmb60 billon by 2020.


Dashihua is emerging as the sixth major commercial district of Chongqing. With four rail lines passing through this district, it has become a prime area for commercial investment and consumption. In 2013, investment in fixed assets amounted to Rmb9.81 billion, accounting for 35.9% of investment in Yuzhong district. According to figures released by the Dashihua District Management Committee, more than 10 major commercial projects are being planned or under construction here, including Chongqing Tiandi by Shui On, Times Paradise Walk by Longhu, Yingli International Plaza, Vanke Jincheng, and Evergrande Metropolis. Unlike other commercial zones in the city proper, the Daping commercial district, as represented by Longhu’s Times Paradise Walk, caters to mass consumption. It will become the best pilot commercial complex for hands-on experience, with main businesses including a career discovery education centre for children, a real ice skating rink, stores for creative lifestyle products, a parent-child fun fair, a gym, a book city, a snooker club and stores for trendy clothing.


[1]  The Chongqing Urban Developed Economic Circle includes the districts of Yuzhong, Dadukou, Jiangbei, Nan’an, Shapingba, Jiulongpo, Beibei, Yubei and Ba’nan.

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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